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Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  538 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews

This groundbreaking book offers the first global history of the loyalist exodus to Canada, the Caribbean, Sierra Leone, India, and beyond.

At the end of the American Revolution, sixty thousand Americans loyal to the British cause fled the United States and became refugees throughout the British Empire. Liberty’s Exiles tells their s
Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2011)
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Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
The American War of Independence conjures up so many heroic images and so many myths, anything from Paul Revere’s Ride to the winter at Valley Forge; from the gallant Minute Men to the ferocious ‘Hessians’, the mercenary army of a ‘tyrant’ king.

Have you ever considered what happened to the losers, those who fought on the ‘wrong side’? I’m not thinking here of those dreaded Hessians! No, the people I have in mind were the colonists who remained loyal to the crown, loosely grouped by the Patriots
The "other side" of the American Revolution's story is almost never mentioned in the US. As a reader of history, I was aware of the exodus from NYC and as a native of Western NY, I knew about land grants in Canada to loyalists; however, I had never heard of the "Spirit of 1783", or considered the rights and liberties that might be available through the British model at the time, nor knew that the burning for the US capitol in the War of 1812 was in response to US looting and the burning Upper Ca ...more
Matthew Linton
American Loyalism has become one of the hottest trends in Early American historical scholarship. Numerous monographs have sought to understand why certain Americans stayed loyal to the British and how that loyalty became the new foundation of the British Empire after the loss of the United States. One of the most fascinating examination of American Loyalists is Harvard historian Maya Jasanoff's Liberty's Exiles, which traces the Loyalist diaspora after the American Revolution and examines how th ...more
Patrick Sprunger
Most of the history dedicated to the American Revolution devotes a great deal of space to the speculative definition of the revolutionary generation. Less space is given to defining the loyalists. For the most part, loyalists are described passively as the vague inverse of the patriots* - people Maya Jasanoff calls "republicans" (with a small "r").** In Liberty's Exiles, the author proffers a much more affirmative definition of American loyalists as basically conservative British subjects who, f ...more
Jun 24, 2017 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
There are two sides to every story. This book tells the side of the American Revolution that doesn't get told very often in the U.S. It's the tale of those American colonists who would rather have worked things out with the crown rather than seceding and going to war. Many suffered violence at the hands of the patriots even before the war began. Many lost everything and dispersed to other parts of the British empire: Nova Scotia, Bahamas, Jamaica, Great Britain, Sierra Leone, India. And before y ...more
American legends would have you believe the American Revolution was a relatively civilised affair, a unanimous uprising from the oppressed and downtrodden colonists against a tyrannical king and unrepresentative parliament. The truth, as with anything, is very different. It was more akin to a civil war; indeed, at the time it was described as such, rather than revolution, with families split asunder, neighbours turning against one another, this man a revolutionary, that man a loyalist.

This book
Feb 17, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-misc
If you're into non-traditional histories this will be your cup of tea. Absolutely fascinating and very different perspective of the Revolutionary War and the first generation afterwards. Reminded me of Bush's dictum "you are either for us or against us." The takeaway from this book is that the Revolutionary War really was our first civil war. It doesn't quite trumpet that directly but it's an easy inference. Some amazing personal stories of endurance, perseverance, and flexibility. The diaspora ...more
Mar 01, 2012 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
History books often make wars sound so nice and neat. There was a cause, there was a war, and then it was over. Nowhere is this tendency more evident than in many treatments of the American Revolution. Many history books entirely overlook the messy aftermath of the war, when the official fighting was over but the diplomatic wrangling dragged on for several years. I have rarely encountered any that mention the fate of the 'losing side'- the American loyalists who found themselves in a country tha ...more
Sep 09, 2014 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
All of what was said in previous comments. One particular point of interest for me was learning that so many American blacks, freed and enslaved, evacuated to Jamaica - which puts a real twist on what one thinks about the history/origins of black people in the West Indies. Also, gives pause to consider what impact or role this emigration had on what would later be the slave revolts and eventual abolition of slavery across the British Empire. Jasanoff hints, according to a fellow Goodreads review ...more
Jason Walker
It struck me that growing up I thought that everyone who sided with Britain in the Revolutionary War went to Canada and somehow that made sense to me. The truth couldn't be further from that. Loyalists went anywhere they wanted in the enormous empire. This book includes collections of some very interesting and amazing stories about people that just didn't get the republican experiment.
Czarny Pies
As an undergraduate, it was explained to me that the proper course for an historian was to choose a topic of interest and then conduct research by investigating the relevant sources. In "Liberty's Exiles", Maya Jasanoff appears instead to have taken sources that interested her and attempted to find a topic for them. The result is a book strewn with errors yet possessing brilliant insight to the Zeitgeist of Revolutionary America. She ultimately succeeds in her audacious effort to demonstrate tha ...more
Brian Morris
The book is a little on the long side, but I thought it was an interesting look at the American Revolution from the perspective of those who were on the "wrong" side of the struggle. The plight of the loyalists is largely ignored in other histories of the Revolution which tend to describe the Revolution mainly as a war of ideas. But as this book makes clear, it could certainly qualify as a Civil War among whites, blacks, and Indians featuring partisan fighting, atrocities, and a large refugee cr ...more
Tom Darrow
Jan 12, 2014 Tom Darrow rated it liked it
This book was good, but it was an absolute BEAST to read. 350 pages isn't all that long for a well-researched non-fiction work like this, but the font is tiny and the organization problematic. It took me about a month to work my way through this book.

Generally speaking, I like the premise of this book. American historians hardly ever give any notice to the loyalists DURING the revolution, let alone what happened to them AFTER the revolution. Jasanoff does a good job at shedding light on this li
Maya Jasanoff. Liberty’s Exiles. Narrated by L.J. Ganser. 14 CDs. 16 hours. Recorded Books, LLC. 2012. 978-1-4640-4599-8
The historian Maya Jasanoff has the scholar’s perspective to use primary sources to tell the story of Americans who were not among those seeking independence from the British Empire in the Revolution of 1776. In Liberty’s Exiles, she employs the craft of the storyteller and the perspective of the historical thinker in a narrative of true life characters who represent a fascinat
Apr 16, 2013 Mitchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think anyone can say that they really know the American Revolution without having read this excellent account of "the other side". Jasanoff paints a much more complicated and nuanced picture of the loyalists then we usually learn (assuming we paid any attention to the loyalists). They were a very diverse group both in terms of class and race. Some things this book really opened my eyes on -- who was an American and a British citizen in early American days was a serious issue. People chan ...more
Sep 17, 2011 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am giving this five stars because if somebody said to me, "Hey, I don't know anything about the Loyalists. What was the deal with those people? What happened to them?" I would say "You know what book you should read? Liberty's Exiles by Maya Jasanoff." And it isn't just that it's comprehensive, it is also very readable and structured in a good way. Jasanoff breaks things down by chapters nicely, so you cover the loyalists who went to Jamaica in one chapter, and then the Bahamas, then Quebec, e ...more
Feb 08, 2015 Iain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another tale you don't often hear when reading about the American Revolution... what happened to the loyalists? Those people living in the thirteen colonies who decided to support Britain, there were about 60,000 by the end of the war that needed to leave. Maya Jasanoff's book 'Liberty's Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World' provides the narrative of these people. They went to all parts of the British empire which despite losing the territory of America was actually expanding th ...more
Apr 26, 2011 Losososdiane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is both well-researched and well-presented. It covers a topic that has been mostly missing in American history: the fate of those who remained loyal to the British Empire during the Revolutionary War. I am ashamed to say that I had never given any thought to what happened at the conclusion of the war to these people. The author documents how the British king and parliament dealt with evacuating 30,000 people from New York City alone. This city was now hostile territory and the Loyalist ...more
Dan Gorman
Jan 26, 2015 Dan Gorman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really strong narrative history of the American Revolution's aftereffects. Jasanoff traces the Loyalist diaspora - whites, free and enslaved blacks, and Native Americans (such as the Mohawks who moved to Canada) - in the wake of the British Empire's defeat. The book uses different representative families and individuals to put a human face on the various economic and social strata she's studying. This allows for plenty of colorful characters, anecdotes, and digressions, which the public loves, b ...more
Judy Owens
Apr 08, 2013 Judy Owens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Recommended to Judy by: New York Times Sunday Book Review
For all of those who avoid histories of war because of the wooden, one dimensional castings of brave generals and beleaguered troops, Maya Jasanoff's telling of the fate of those who remained loyal to Great Britain during the American Revolution is a welcome relief and a delightful telling of an obscure feature of America's beginnings. Jasanoff's ability to populate the grand stage with complex, intriguing characters drive this narrative, as the refugees make their way across the British imperia ...more
Sep 29, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Liberty’s Exiles is a comprehensive volume of life after the Revolutionary War for the Loyalist citizens, who numbered roughly 1 in 40 Americans. The author simplifies what could otherwise have been overwhelming and sometimes dry information (460 pp!) by presenting it chronologically and by region and with case studies of families that she follows throughout the text (and through multiple generations).

While my primary interest was in learning more about the settlements in Nova Scotia and New Bru
Apr 26, 2012 Renee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Not only the interesting and NOT taught perspective, aspect of our own American/Colonial history but Ms. Jasanoff's writing style is very easy to read. American History is so complicated and so amazing, yet it is too often only portrayed in loud, patriotic, glorious terms; with the nasty underbelly of what took place at the human level glossed over. The violence against ordinary citizens who were or Loyal to the King or in some cases politically neutral was horrific. ...more
Michael Foley
What happened to the Loyalist Americans following the war? Jasanoff uses all available materials to tell the story of their diaspora. Rich landowners, politicians, soldiers, and slaves found themselves thrust to all points the the British empire, including Canada, Jamaica, India, and Australia. Yet, they took with them the experiences and ideologies of the America they left behind. Although loyal to the Crown, they were not opposed to expressing their own sense of independence. In many ways, the ...more
May 10, 2013 Vic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although an avid history book reader I usually avoid histories of the War of Independence for the same reason that I avoid programmes about World War II on the History many times can you tell this story. However I was intrigued by this account of the Loyalists. I think perhaps the author overstates the contribution the Loyalists made to the Empire. Some of the developments she attributes to Loyalist influence I suspect were really the lessons Britain learnt from the war. i.e. it had ...more
Sarah Wagner
I had never really given much thought to the Loyalists during the American Revolution until this book. However, the number of people who went into exile surprised me - the author estimates around 60,000 - and the trials the various groups faced astounded me. One theme running through the book is the fate of black slaves during the revolution and exile. The slaves of patriots were offered their freedom in some cases by the British authorities and many took this opportunity to claim their freedom. ...more
Jun 23, 2011 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who would have thought the stories of the loyalists after the American Revolution would be so fascinating. After studying US history for years, I had no idea of the nature of the conflict between loyalists and "patriots" during and after the war that affected so many. The author traces individual families and whole groups who left the new country to struggle in other British territories. Slaves who were given their freedom with the British still found discrimination in settling in Canada, the We ...more
Finally we have the story about what happened to those who supported the British during the American Revolution. What happened to these people was often quite tragic. Often they didn't fit in with either the British empire nor the American empire. Imagine drifting from one place to another without finding a place to call home. I like how Ms. Jasanoff structured the book. First she focuses on on the Revolution itself. Then she traces the emigrants to the various countries they journeyed too (Cana ...more
David R.
Jul 19, 2012 David R. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
Jasanoff does a wonderful job telling the story of loyalist expatriates following the American Revolution. She decided to focus on a handful of representative persons and families and follows them to the major destinations of Nova Scotia/New Brunswick, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Florida, Sierra Leone, and England -- a technique that provides marvelous storytelling with a minimum of fuss. What's fascinating is how poorly the British Empire ended up managing their loyal American brethren and native Ame ...more
Dr Wadhwa
Jan 20, 2015 Dr Wadhwa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
The American Revolution was not 100% in demand when it was taking place. Loyalists did not get refute in England after the war, they were scattered and here we learn their story. Their loyal attitude did not pay off for the well being of their families for the next few generations.

A mirror for the British conduct at the end of the revolutionary war in America as to how they treated the subjects of the colonies when compared to citizens of England. The elitist family's who settled in Nova Scotia,
Jenny Brown
Very well researched, but far more than I really wanted to know about its subject. The same points were made over and over as the author presented what events could be documented. The focus on a few individuals who are used to lead into more generic descriptions of what happened in various locales didn't quite work for me because the characters never came to life as portrayed.

I'd say this is one that is essential reading for graduate students of American History (and I've been one of those, so I
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Maya Jasanoff’s teaching and research focus on the history of modern Britain and the British Empire, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries. Her first book, Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750-1850, investigates British expansion in India and Egypt through the lives of art collectors. It was awarded the 2005 Duff Cooper Prize and was a book of the year selection in ...more
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